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Smart financial strategies to dial down holidays stress

The holiday period can bring good vibes, but also major money stress. We break down strategies to help you enjoy the holidays, without sending you into a financial black hole.

Holiday Budgeting

You’ve seen the memes: the holiday season started on Nov 1, 00:01, and everyone lost their friggin’ minds. TikTok scrolling is now fraught with candy canes, ridiculously OTT advent calendar unboxings and tips on how to host the perfect Christmas gathering.

Die-hard Christmas fans will be scolding our Grinch-like response to the festive season. But for many, especially during this insane economy, the holidays are a time of financial stress. Add in paying rent, juggling school commitments and a social life in between, and it’s a recipe for anxiety 💀

It doesn’t have to be that way. Resist the temptation to splash cash you can’t afford this year, with our fail-safe tips on managing your financial health. ‘Tis the season for your holiday spirit to be ✨ high ✨ and your stress levels low 💅

Understanding holiday stress

Joyous festivities or frenzied rush to the finish line? The holidays depend on how you look at it. Over the years, the expectations over what a ‘perfect’ holiday season looks like have gone truly delulu, with influencers touting their latest “must-have Christmas decorations” to a bunch of followers that grew up thinking 20-year-old decor was the norm. (Spoiler: it is.)

Social media isn’t helping other things about the holidays, either. It’s consumption central: there's an implicit pressure to attend every party, have the ideal outfit, and present an image of holiday perfection.

Besides, the time of year is already a balancing act. Managing end-of-year academic or work deadlines with holiday preparations and family commitments is a common source of stress. And if you work in retail? Let’s just fast-forward to January altogether 🤡

The first step in fixing any problem is admitting we have one. So, here it is: Christmas culture can be a little out of control, but your budget doesn’t have to be. If you’re feeling the pressure, here’s our advice on handling it this year.

Budgeting for the holidays

When it comes to the holidays, it’s all about budgeting without burning out. Making a budget when you’re barely making rent is tough, but navigating the holidays with some sense of a plan brings peace of mind.

Here are some ways to maximize your budget this holiday season without compromising on seasonal cheer.

Use smarter gifting strategies

The spirit of giving doesn’t have to break the bank. If you need to cut back on spending this holiday season and you’re handing out fewer gifts, don’t stress. Does everyone in your family really need matching onesies as Christmas gifts this year, or are you just contributing to fast fashion’s influence?

Organize gift exchanges with friends or family to reduce the number of gifts you need to buy. Look out for deals and discounts, and remember, a thoughtful gift doesn’t have to be expensive.

Experiences over materialism

Tbh, the last thing anyone needs is more stuff. Still want to show your loved ones you care about them this holiday? Propose activities like a day trip, a cooking session, or a movie marathon as alternatives to traditional gift-giving. These can be more memorable and less taxing on your wallet.

Planning ahead

One of the best strategies for budgeting is planning in advance. Start setting aside a small amount each month well before the holidays. This can help avoid the stress of last-minute spending sprees. Sure, it might be a little late for this year, but it’s worth keeping in mind for the future.

Cleo helps you round up your everyday spending to save in your sleep. That treat yo’self Starbucks you just bought for $4.50? The extra $0.50 gets sent to a dedicated savings pot. Don’t sleep on this method - the pile soon starts to grow.

Use an AI budgeting app

Tried and failed to stick to a budget before? Let tech do the heavy lifting in monitoring your expenditures. AI-powered apps like Cleo have expense tracking and budget categories (Christmas-themed coffee syrups sure AF needs their own one, after all) to help you stick to the path.

Smart shopping and saving tips

Seasonal shopping doesn’t have to be a wallet-draining experience. With these smart strategies, you can balance festive generosity and saving savings - because financial wellbeing is way more important than keeping up with the Joneses.

Look for online deals

Classic advice, but sorely underused. Sign up for newsletters and alerts from your favorite stores to access sales and exclusive discounts early. Browser extensions like Honey and Kudos offer price change history and exclusive coupons you can use to save cash on your holiday gifting.

Embrace secondhand shopping

Does every gift you buy in the holidays need to be brand new? Absolutely not. Going thrifting for gifts works great for young kids who grow out of clothes quickly and anyone who appreciates the planet.

Consider buying gifts from thrift stores, online marketplaces for pre-owned items, or eco-friendly brands. Saving money and becoming a sustainable queen? The vibes are immaculate 💅

Group gifting

If you want to get something special for someone, consider pooling together with friends and family. This approach allows you to give a more substantial gift without the financial strain falling on one person.

DIY gifts

It’s time to enter your DIY era. A handcrafted piece of art for grandma? Get painting. Iced holiday cookies for your little sister? She’ll love that you made them. The options are endless, and there are a million DIY TikToks about to get you started.

No matter what you decide on as your DIY gift, the sentimental value will mean so much more to your loved ones - and your wallet.

Shop early and plan ahead

The holidays arrive earlier and earlier, but getting your shopping done ahead of the rush can save money. Btw, did you know prices often increase before Black Friday discounts begin? Trash behavior.

Avoid the last-minute rush by starting your shopping early. This gives you the time to compare prices and choose gifts thoughtfully, rather than making impulsive and often more expensive, last-minute decisions.

Self-care and mental health

The holidays are a whirlwind of activities and spending. If you’re getting FOMO because not getting into debt is your priority this year, remember that self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. Prioritizing mental health during this bustling season is key to enjoying it fully.

A simple way to preserve your sanity during the holiday season is cutting back on social media. Perfect influencers in glittering homes are rife at this time of year. Allocate time each day to unplug from social media and digital devices. Use this time for meditating, watching a crappy Hallmark movie or other hobbies that bring you joy instead.

Exercise is a powerful stress reliever. It doesn’t have to be intense, either. Daily walking, yoga, or a short home workout can boost your mood and energy levels - yes, even when it’s f*cking freezing outside.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek support. Talk to friends, family, or consider professional help. Many mental health resources are available online, offering advice and counseling specifically for young adults. You gotta look after #1 ♥️

Cleo’s here to help

Need an app to keep you on track? Cleo’s a multi-tasking queen that can handle budgeting and saving. 

Hit your budgeting goals with Cleo’s free AI-powered budget planner that works around your needs and spending. Complete with a spending tracker and on-hand to help with your money questions, she’s your budgeting bestie. Save the pennies and focus on actually enjoying the holiday season, instead.

As for savings? Cleo’s not bad at that either 💅 Set personalized savings goals, use the auto saving tool and make easy withdrawals to support your saving without the hassle. 

And no financial guru would be complete without some light encouragement. Just type ‘hype me’ to Cleo and she’ll be ready to sing your financial praises. Want some tough love? Type ‘roast me’ and prepare yourself 💀


Finally, a budgeting app that understands your real essentials—iced coffee.

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